11 Impressive Benefits of Horseradish

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Horseradish is a powerful and pungent plant connected to a wide variety of health benefits, including its ability to aid in weight loss, lower blood pressure, alleviate respiratory conditions, build strong bones, improve the immune system, stimulate healthy digestion, promote heart health, and lower the chances of neural tube defects in infants. Most notably, horseradish may reduce the risk of cancer due to its high levels of glucosinolates.

What is Horseradish?

Horseradish is actually a member of the Brassicaceae family, meaning that it is closely related to wasabi, mustard, cabbage, and broccoli. It is closer in application to wasabi and mustard because when the thick, white root (the active ingredient) is sliced, the breakdown of those plant cells releases enzymes that break down the sinigrin found in the root. This releases mustard oil, which is a pungent and irritating chemical that affects the sinuses and eyes of those who smell it. This is why horseradish is so popularly used as a spicy burst of flavor in a number of dishes or a lightly applied condiment to certain types of steak.

Horseradish originated in Southern Europe and Western Asia, where it has been referenced throughout history. The power and importance of this root have been known for thousands of years and it is now available across the world. It is used mainly in culinary practices and has medicinal applications too and some of those health benefits are urging more people to consume it around the world. Ironically enough, it is actually poisonous to horses!

Fresh horseradish with leaves on a wooden chopper board

Nutrition Facts

Horseradish, prepared
Serving Size :
Water [g]85.08
Energy [kcal]48
Protein [g]1.18
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.69
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]11.29
Fiber, total dietary [g]3.3
Sugars, total [g]7.99
Calcium, Ca [mg]56
Iron, Fe [mg]0.42
Magnesium, Mg [mg]27
Phosphorus, P [mg]31
Potassium, K [mg]246
Sodium, Na [mg]420
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.83
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]24.9
Thiamin [mg]0.01
Riboflavin [mg]0.02
Niacin [mg]0.39
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.07
Folate, DFE [µg]57
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]0
Vitamin A, IU [IU]2
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.01
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]1.3
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.09
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.13
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.34
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Horseradish Nutrition Facts

The health benefits of horseradish are mainly attributed to its high nutrient and mineral content, which includes dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese, as well as its organic chemical composition of enzymes and oils, like sinigrin, a powerful glucosinolate. These components work together to provide the health benefits, which are explained below.

Health Benefits of Horseradish

Health benefits of horseradish include the following:

Boosts Immunity

Horseradish is packed with beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals, some of which give it the distinctive, pungent odor that is well known. This is the reason that it works so well as a food additive and an ingredient in cuisines all around the world. Some of these chemicals are various forms of isothiocyanate and sinigrin. These components have been found to have antioxidant characteristics that boost the strength of the immune system and stimulate the activity and production of white blood cells, the body’s main line of defense. The vitamin C content of this spicy root is also impressively high, which boosts the strength of the immune system and joins the defensive forces against free radicals.

Anti-cancer Properties

Horseradish may help increase your ability to fight off cancer and delay the spread of metastasis of cancerous cells. Marvin J. Weil et al. found that bioactive compounds present in horseradish had an inhibitory effect on cancer cells (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2005). 

Weight Loss

Horseradish is very low in calories, only 6 per serving, and has no fat whatsoever. It does have omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids but they are an essential part of human metabolism, so just because they are labeled as “cholesterol” doesn’t mean that consuming them is always bad. Since it is high in fiber and rich in protein, it can stimulate feelings of satiety, and it can be used freely in recipes without worrying about adding any unnecessary fats or calories. This way, overeating is reduced, and weight loss attempts are not compromised.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Potassium is an essential part of our body that regulates the flow of cellular fluids and the tension of blood vessels. Potassium deficiency results in higher blood pressure, which means a higher risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases and conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. Eating horseradish, which is a rich source of potassium, can improve your heart health by lowering your blood pressure and regulating the passage of fluids and nutrients between cellular membranes.

Improves Digestion

Some of the elements in horseradish act as gastric stimulants and the plant as a whole is known to have a sizable impact on digestion and nutritional absorption. The phytochemicals in the root stimulate various glands in the body, including those for salivation, gastric, and intestinal juices. When combined with the fiber content of the plant that bulks up bowel and stimulates peristaltic motion of the smooth intestinal muscles, horseradish can ease any digestive issues and regulate bowel movements, while decreasing the occurrence of constipation and diarrhea.

Improves Bone Health

There is a modest amount of calcium in horseradish, which forms an essential part of bone health, growth, and repair. Adding a significant amount of calcium to your diet can keep your stronger and younger, while also reducing your chances of developing debilitating conditions like osteoporosis.

Helps in Pregnancy

The high levels of folate found in horseradish mean that it protects mothers and infants from pregnancy issues, and also stimulates the development of the fetus, thereby eliminating the chances of neural tube defects. However, too much of the spicy condiment can be dangerous for pregnant women, so restrict your intake.

Boosts Metabolism

Horseradish is packed with proteins, vitamins, and minerals, but lacks fat and calories. This means that the protein can directly be metabolized into useful energy, new tissue, muscle matter or cellular material that can be used to repair and bolster defenses against toxins and illness. Your energy levels can increase and the pungent sinigrin in it can make you aware and focused, raising your concentration level.

Acts as Antibacterial Agent

Studies have shown that the powerful, natural chemicals in horseradish can be a great defense against microbes and bacterial infections, including Listeria, E. coli, and Staphylococcus. Add it on your sandwich or steak and protect yourself against these undesirable, infection-bearing bacteria. The specific antibacterial component in it is called allyl isothiocyanate.

Diuretic Property

Horseradish has a diuretic quality that stimulates urination. This is good for a number of reasons, including the regular release of dangerous toxins from the body, cleanliness of the kidney, and a reduction in weight, since 4% of urine is actually composed of body fat!

Improves Respiratory Conditions

The defining odor of horseradish that makes our nose curl up and our eyes water can help to clear the mucus secretions in the sinus and respiratory system. Taking a strong sniff or inhalation of pure horseradish can stimulate the secretion of various juices that help to clear out congestion developed due to a cold, illness or allergy.

Word of Caution: Horseradish is quite high in sodium and the calories that are in it, come from sugar. Although it is usually consumed in small amounts, it is still important to remember that sodium can be detrimental to people struggling with obesity, as are calories derived from sugar. Also, horseradish has a slightly diuretic quality, which can exacerbate problems for people with kidney disorders, and for those with peptic ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease, the intense power of horseradish can make these conditions worse. Finally, if you suffer from hypothyroidism, some studies have shown that horseradish exacerbates this condition as well, so avoid it.

Other than these warnings, spread some horseradish on your next burger, sandwich, steak or salad and enjoy!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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